I arrived at the train station fifteen minutes earlier. I sat down on a worn bench inside the waiting hall where it was cool and ate a tuna sandwich I had prepared at home. Chewing on a piece I observed. There weren’t many people traveling at this hour, 14:15, and it struck me as odd, because it was a week day and the Shinkansen line from Maibara to Kyoto was usually a busy one.
My train was set to leave in 10 minutes. I looked at my watch remembering then I had the digital one on today. My other watch, the mechanical one my father had given me when I was seventeen had stopped working a day ago and I had left it at the shop for repair. I felt at unease watching the four digital numbers static but for the seconds counting up, building to something I couldn’t predict. I had no knowledge of the time ahead of the one displayed right now and for some reason it felt terrible. I tried to picture a regular clock and arrange the hours on it as they were and as I have always known them, but my mind failed to do so and I realized through the mental image of a blank clock that the hours had merged into an unrecognizable net of numbers somewhere in the back of my head, where I couldn’t read them or place them. In a sense I had become timeless.
My watch blinked, a very brief and barely detectable change that sent me two minutes ahead at 14:17. When I lifted my gaze towards the time-table the digital clock on the bottom of the screen was caught in a pause itself as the numbers didn’t change, just faded out and faded in along with the whole time-table which also had been frozen, trains, gates, lines, nonexistent for a fragment of red neon dots. When the table cleared the time shown was 14:18. The standard clock hanging beside the time-table had been taken down and I stared through the space where it used to be, still trying to remember how time looked like in its full cycle.
I took my briefcase and hurried outside. On the exit another digital clock wished me a good day and offered its own view on time – this one showed 14:20.
A throbbing in my left temple appeared and I rubbed a knuckle on the painful spot searching for the train. There was one with painted graffiti on it. I made my way towards it but the digital sign above the middle window read “VACANT PLEASE DON’T BOARD.” As I obeyed the written rule other people didn’t and they swiftly and undisturbed walked through the sliding doors.
I looked at those people unsure whether to board the same train I thought I had to. I searched their faces for the same distress I was experiencing. The old man carrying a small red handled saw in a plastic bag looked at me, scratching his yellow beard glued to a scrawny chocolate tanned face. He bowed his head and went on. On the platform we stayed, only I, a boy with very long fingers and a guitar, a lone businessmen and a daughter helping her old mother support herself. A brown dog with its tail bitten off swung by us sniffing the air and my pocket for the unfinished sandwich I had stuffed there on my way out. I emptied the content of the small bag, crumbs, little tuna pieces and sauce beside a trash bin and watched the dog lick the pavement for the scrubs. I flinched away at the blood still dripping from its wound. My throbbing changed to the right temple.
I walked back to the group still unsure whether to board or not.
“Is this the train to Kyoto?”
I looked to my side to find the boy with the long fingers holding his ticket out, pointing the time and destination.
“I wouldn’t know. I guess it might be it. Or maybe it isn’t. I don’t know.”
The vacant sign crawled lazily across the black screen until it collapsed and a new one emerged reading “Maibara – Kyoto.” An announcement came that passengers could now board the train to Kyoto, leaving from platform 4.
My watch showed 14:19.
“Excuse me”, I said turning to the woman holding firmly her mother’s hand. They were just about to enter the train. “What time is it?”
The woman fumbled in her bag and took out her mobile phone.
“I see. And this is the train to Kyoto?”
“Yes. There was an announcement about a delay, so it will leave five minutes late.”
“Sorry, but what happened?”
“A worker got electrocuted somewhere down the rails.”
I turned to see the lone businessman shyly answering me. He slicked back his receding hair and nodding, climbed in.
“I hope he is alright,” said the woman.
I held my head. It throbbed on both sides now. I closed my eyes and counted the churning gray parasites in the blackness behind my eyelids.
The train departed and I sat on a bench watching it slide away fast. When I went back inside the digital clock showed 14:31. My watch patiently waited, displaying 14:26, not a second more or less.